When did the Bon Secours Wellness Arena shut down for COVID-19? The Lady Gamecocks walked away with the SEC Championship on March 8, 2020, against Mississippi State. Since then, several high school and college graduation events have occurred, but no events opened to the public until Swamp Rabbit Hockey, which is now underway.
Who runs the Bon Secours Wellness Arena (locally known as “The Well”)? General Manager Beth Paul leads the team with a solid five years of profit. Surplus funds — $2.1 million in 2020 — were typically used shore up reserve and building improvement funds. Under the current conditions, those funds are now being used for operations. There is a board of directors, which consists of nine citizens nominated by Greenville County Council.
What has changed since COVID-19? In short, what has not changed? Paul, unfortunately, had to lay off 50% of the staff.
Every event is different and therefore has different challenges. Basketball courts are laid out differently than ice rinks and concerts and therefore have different capacity maximums. But Paul expects no more than 30% capacity for any event. Seating is arranged for every other row and four seats in between “pods” (your family is now a pod).
What other safety measures have been addressed? There is “no-touch” ticket taking and security and weapon screening. Restrooms are cleaned every hour, and high-touch areas are continually cleaned. A new ionization technology was added to the air filtration system.
Some good news … A new food company, Levy Restaurants, was hired Sept. 1, 2020, and there are new food stations: a craft beer stop, a new burger bar and two new grab-and-go stations where you can buy prepackaged snacks and drinks like you would at a convenience store.
More good news … Well walkers are back! Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the concourse is open to the public for walking. And it’s free! The total distance around the concourse is 1/4 mile. Don’t think this is only for strollers in gleaming white tennies; some real power walkers are rounding the course. Restroom facilities are open, and there is music pumping in the arena, which gives it a super upbeat vibe.
What does the future look like? “People enjoy live entertainment, and consumer confidence is up,” says Paul. “Our job is to have events and keep safety protocols.”
The next big musical event is contemporary Christian hip-hop artist TobyMac, coming Feb. 24, and Paul expects 4,000 maximum attendance. The key is to maintain the distancing. She stresses that her staff and public safety are paramount and everyone can help by wearing masks.
When do we expect full-capacity shows? Reminiscing about the big music shows, Paul confidently says the hard work to pull off ever-changing sets is easily handled by her well-trained team. In 2011, when the late artist Prince came to town, the musician wanted his dressing room and the route leading up the stage to be purple. As it should be, folks. Both 2019 and early 2020 had strong sold-out shows including Thomas Rhett, 21 Pilots, Chris Stapleton and Lauren Daigle.
“We were the first to close and will likely be the last to fully open,” Paul says. In the meantime, they are working hard to bring entertainment for all.
- Last Day on the Big Ice is Jan. 18, and tickets can be purchased online.
- PBR (Professional Bull Riders) is Jan. 22-23.
- Furman men’s basketball plays on the weekends starting Jan. 16.
- Swamp Rabbits Hockey regular season ends Feb. 11.
- Michael Buble has been rescheduled to August 14.
Amy Ryberg Doyle served for 12 years on Greenville City Council. She is married and has four children. An outdoors enthusiast, she likes to bike, swim and run, but not all in that order. She power-naps daily.